Being the better person is bullshit

Yeah, you read that right.

Being the “better person” is complete bullshit. It’s for losers. It’s propaganda that only serves those that need you to be the better person, but it doesn’t do a damn thing for you in the end. Oh sure, they’ll tell you that it will bring you joy or peace in the end, good karma and all that crap, just knowing that you were the better person.

But…they were wrong.

Why? Because all the while that you are doing the “right” things, being the “better person”, you are assisting them in their goals to get to the next better place in their life, to attain the next great thing, to enjoy the fruits of someones else’s labor (namely yours), all without the guilt of worrying about how you feel, who it hurts or what you may need or want along the way.

It’s a win-win for someone, but not you “better person”.

Being expected to be the better person is a way to keep you doing everyone else’s dirty work and bidding, taking care of everyone else’s problems and feelings, showing up to support and/or protect them through the tough times, all the while forgetting about yourself. Putting yourself last, because they need it or want it more than you.

And don’t you want to know that you helped? Doesn’t that make you feel better?

You are a walking advertisement for empathy. And the lights shine so brightly that they come from all areas of your life to take advantage of it. Your empathy is like a siren, or a warm bath, or a soothing hug. It’s your gift!

Thinking of how they feel, how it will affect them, worrying that you’re being selfish or thoughtless because you may consider yourself first once in awhile, is all part of the game that keeps you locked into this arrangement. If you try to stop, or draw a line in the sand to save your sanity and soul, you’re just being selfish. Cruel, thoughtless, mean.

It’s saying to the world, I’m not important enough for your attention or consideration, so please, please dump on me and let me make the road smooth for the rest of you. You place everyone else’s feelings before yours, while you quietly wait your turn because eventually it has to be your turn for at least once, right? They want to be there for you, don’t they?

But your turn never comes because nobody can hear you if you don’t ask.

There is no reward in the end, contrary to what people may tell you. A reward for being the better person, turning the other cheek, is supposedly feeling good about yourself. Just knowing that you did the “right thing” even if nobody else did, or was even willing to try. Even if they don’t recognize it or appreciate it. But, if you’re honest, do you always feel better about yourself in the end?

Not always.

There is no heavenly place reserved for you and the other ‘better people’, filled with all of your hopes and dreams fulfilled, that you discover when you die, and definitely not before you die either. Nope. It’s just that continuous empty feeling, that keeps eating away at your heart and soul, while you stuff down your own needs and desires to serve others. But you keep smiling, because that’s what better people do.

And once you start, it never ends.

Why doesn’t it end? Because it’s like a siren in the night, calling out and attracting more people who need you to be a better person, because they are incapable of it themselves. Or maybe not even incapable, but more likely they just don’t want to waste their time and effort trying. They have other things to do and their own feelings to consider, they don’t have time to think about others, you understand don’t you?

It’s so much easier if you just do it. They will continue to go about their merry lives, still doing ignorant, thoughtless things and saying insensitive, careless, hurtful comments while ignoring how it affects you or anyone else either way. But the fact that you are willing to rise to the challenge, and take one (or two, or three or more) for the team saves everyone the disturbing task of really looking at who they are, what they say or do and how it actually affects anyone –  remaining unaccountable for their actions and words. It allows them to ignore how they’re actions and words hurt you, or how unfairly they treat you.

If being the better person was such a great thing why aren’t more people doing it? And if they have to expect you to be that person what does that say about them? Shouldn’t everyone want that accolade? Obviously it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be, or there’d be a line of people helping each other each and every day. Just because.

You deserve more than that. You really do. Even if those people don’t think you do.

Go ahead and be a better person. But be the better person for yourself for once. Be that person in your corner, that cheerleader in your moment of doubt, the light at the end of your dark tunnel. Give to yourself the way you would give to others – no, it’s not one of the commandments I know, but it should be because if you can’t be good to yourself or love yourself, how are you supposed to be good to and love someone else in a fulfilling way?

Where will that love come from if you never fill your own vessel?

The next time you choose yourself over someone else, the next time you say ‘no’ to one more request for your time and energy, the day that you finally draw the line in the sand and mark your boundaries, know that you are the better person.

You are the better person for yourself. And you are worth it.

*this post was written before “Clusters”, basically a more gritty version of the feelings attached to clusters.

 

 

 

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Clusters

You always hear that things happen in three’s. It’s usually referencing the deaths of movie stars or famous people, but other things also do I’m sure. It sounds so religious, the trinity symbolism being carried through the ages, but in many ways and often times it’s true. It just works out that way.

I think I’ve personally dispelled the myth of the threes for myself. Mine are more like fives or sixes. Clusters.

And maybe they aren’t really happening to me in clusters, maybe I only notice them after there are a few things in a row strung together, usually only able to connect the dots in the aftermath.

During my last pregnancy I was 39 years old. We already had two boys that were around 18 months apart, but now we had waited almost five years to decide to add to our family. One last baby to have our desired three. Before I turned forty.

My ex is from a family of three, I am from a family of three, it only seemed right to follow the pattern. The trinity and all, God’s plan right? That wasn’t the reason, but it made sense in some way. Three is a solid number.

During that pregnancy I had a cluster of bad luck events that I can only blame on hormones sucking out my braincells. Seriously. I cannot remember being this big of a moron during the other two pregnancies.

I was also a bit younger with the first two.

The cluster included a fender bender in my brand new minivan while trying to park at the school, only weeks later filling up the tank with the wrong gas in the same newly minted minivan (my first experience with a diesel tank…and my last), missing a school ‘thank you’ award ceremony for room parents (which I was that year) that left my oldest son standing on a stage in front of the entire school, with flowers in hand, waiting for me to appear (yeah, I still wince and feel sick to my stomach every time I remember that one) and walking right into a glass door not realizing it was even there, my very pregnant belly bouncing off of the glass to the horror of one of my friends.

Where is a camera when you need one? That would have definitely been YouTube worthy.

You can’t always blame hormones on mishaps or uncomfortable circumstances in your life, sometimes it’s just life happening to you – or karma, or bad juju, or the universe speaking to you, whatever you want to name it. The fact that it happens in a string, or cluster, may only be because you can now look at it as a whole and connect the dots.

Maybe you made one off decision that lead to a multitude of more challenges or surprises than you expected. Too many to deal with properly, in constant succession.

It’s like a wound that is left uncared for, not properly cleaned and bandaged, without first aid. At first it seems that it can heal on it’s own, it’s not that big of a deal, it’s only a scratch and you’re healthy and strong. But then dirt gets into it or you scrape it again. The skin around it can’t heal properly, it weakens and your body’s resistance gets lower the longer you leave it unattended. It gets infected and the infection spreads.

After a couple of these life challenges, your resistance and resilience gets lower and you just can’t fight as hard any longer. You can no longer make sound, rational decisions, or deal with life’s surprises as well as you could before. And that causes you more stress, adding to your already overloaded heart and brain, leaving you desperate to catch your breath and grab onto something or someone, for help or support.

You just need to take a break from it all. You need time to heal and get stronger.

Along this “life happening” journey of divorce, I’ve learned a lot, and dealt with many “clusters”. More than I ever expected, in a multitude of ways, and sometimes more lessons than I ever wanted to learn about the world and the people I thought I knew.

I’ve grown in ways that were born out of making tough decisions, decisions to protect myself and my kids mental health. Sometimes it included distancing myself from the very people that were close to me, that I trusted deeply, to save my own sanity. Family and friends, clubs and social circles, have now been trimmed of excess to reduce the possibility of new energy-draining events that will only weaken my resistance. I’ve gradually begun to create new boundaries, to insist that people respect them, finally drawing a line in the sand and sticking to it.

Standing up for myself more often than usual is only an added bonus.

And I know I was brutal at times, sometimes even hysterical I’m sure, no longer employing my usual habit of censorship to save someone’s feelings it was most likely shocking to some. But to make them listen, to really hear me and finally ‘get it’, I had to use extreme tactics. I had to be blunt and brutally honest, for fear that I wouldn’t be heard or taken seriously once again. I needed to tell them everything that I had been thinking for the last week, month, year…or decade.

Because in the end, in the thick of the cluster, what more did I have to lose?

I needed to purge. To unburden myself and strip away the heaviness I had been carrying for so long, trying to protect their feelings at my own expense. I needed to vent, unload, scream and let it all out.

I needed to breathe. I needed the surprises and challenges to just stop, for awhile. I needed someone else to take some of the weight off of my shoulders, for just a little bit. If only for a day, or an hour, I needed a free pass to not be the normal version of me that they were so used to seeing, to believing, who they wanted me to be to fit into their world view.

My life was messy and hard and relentlessly pushing down on me. I had to build the walls, put in the moat, and protect myself and my kids to weather this storm of clusters, with or without them. I no longer had spare energy or extra brain space to worry about pleasing other people, or saying or doing the “right things” to keep the peace. I was in survival mode and it was my turn to need support, understanding, love.

And for some, it was too much to ask. They weren’t prepared to understand or support. Or love.

Over my lifetime I have been an enabler, an empath as it’s commonly called these days. It started early on in childhood, and with each passing year and each new relationship added to my emotional history, it grew in strength. I slowly buried who I really was, denying myself what I truly wanted out of my life, my relationships and my dreams. I put myself at the end of the line to wait patiently for it to be my turn, because there were always more important issues and bigger problems for the people in my life. More urgent matters, that needed more attention, than anything that could be going on with me.

I was the therapist, the organizer, the sympathizer, the cheerleader, for everyone…but myself.

I’ve lost a couple of family members, and a couple of what I considered close friends, in the last year or so during this storm of challenge and change. I don’t regret it, as horrible as that sounds. I think everyone needs to purge once or twice in a lifetime, possibly more often than that, to really clear your mind and your soul, to reset your moral compass and your personal boundaries.

Change is part of growing, and growing isn’t always easy.

These days I feel lighter, able to breathe and relax a bit more. My days of pleasing others at my own expense, or at the expense of my children, are over. Am I sorry that I’ve lost people along the way? A little, but it’s really more about disappointment than sorrow.

Disappointed that those same people that I’ve tried to give my best self to, tried to be supportive of, couldn’t rise to the smallest challenge of just being there for me in my darkest hour, my darkest year. Unable to show understanding when I needed it the most. Unwilling to protect me in even the simplest ways. But instead of filling my heart with regret and sorrow over that loss, I’ve filled in those gaps with people that truly bring joy, happiness and support into my life.

People who can give of themselves as well as receive, reciprocated support and love.

The next cluster may be just around the corner, because that’s how life works, but it doesn’t scare me as much now that I’ve tightened up my inner circle and feel more secure in who I am and the boundaries I’ve set. I’ve come through the longest cluster of my life, a better and stronger version of myself, surrounded by the people who only want the best for me and will help me fight for it. I’ve rebuilt my support system, revamped my walls and boundaries, with the hope that I am better prepared for the next cluster when it comes my way.

 

Writing my way to sanity

The question has come up more than a few times since I began writing a blog, with regards to why I am writing about my divorce experience for all of the world to see. Why can’t I just write it in a personal journal, to keep to myself? Isn’t therapy enough of an outlet to clear my head, and my heart, on a weekly basis?

Why do I need to air my “dirty laundry”?

I’ve been called classless and destructive, defaming and selfish, add in a thoughtless and uncaring parent, and I’m pretty much a social media monster.

At first I felt incredibly guilty, so sure that it was all true because someone else felt that way and had said it, or written it, to me. That’s always been a weakness of mine, believing another person’s opinion of myself over my own.

But then I remembered, just because they say it or feel it doesn’t make it true.

When I first began blogging a few years ago I was looking for my voice, for a way to hone my writing skills, and maybe find a new outlet for my creative brain. I had tried so many other outlets over the last half of my life: aerobics, bootcamp, scrapbooking, camping, school volunteering, crossfit, etc. but none had ever addressed the running commentary going on inside of my own head.

No, I wasn’t hearing voices, just my own.

My own view of the world, the events that affected me and my family and friends. I was almost constantly internally narrating, like an episode of the “Wonder Years” or “A Christmas Story”. My mind a constant screen playing the continuous film reel of my life on scratchy, jumpy 8mm film without a soundtrack.

Okay, maybe a soundtrack sometimes.

One day, a few years ago, it occurred to me to write it down. Get it out of my own head and into a space made for such things. I started off with the desire to write a book. Why not? Isn’t that what all writers aspire to do in their lifetime? That’s the only way to become a “real” writer, isn’t it?

I tried to make that happen for awhile, the outline was completed and I just needed to fill in the meat of the stories, but it was more overwhelming and challenging than I had ever imagined. So many directions to go, where to begin, how to end? I read about “building characters” and plot lines, I even joined a writing challenge to motivate me to get it done. I thought you just sat down and started to write!

I had no idea how wrong I was.

Plus, it would be  time consuming, and as the mother of three, I couldn’t justify carving out the time needed to put my whole heart into it.

Wanting to write a book was like realizing one day that other people were eating and enjoying pie, not just a piece but a whole pie. Pie is good, and I like pie, so I should eat pie, too. Not just a piece of pie, to make sure that I like that kind of pie, no I would get the entire pie, like everyone else had, because I was certain that I would enjoy it as much as everyone else did. Who wouldn’t like to eat an entire pie??

Me. An entire pie is too much pie if you’re just starting to eat pie. Make sense?

So the next best thing was to blog, to write “episodes” of my life instead of an entire made-for-TV movie. Start small and see if it fits. It was a test, really. Can I really write something that other people will read and relate to, or do I only sound interesting inside of my own head?

I stumbled along with the blogging idea for awhile, not really knowing how to hone in on any one area of my life or interest to write about. There are so many possibilities! I was so excited when I had two followers, the thought of having many more than that was beyond my imagination. Who would want to read what I had to say about anything? What made my life so interesting that anyone would care to read about it?

But then life presented a topic.

A topic that affected so many areas of my life, my world, my family and my friends. I began reading articles, books, and blogs on the subject, to understand more about it, but noticed that nobody was really talking about it the way I was narrating it inside of my own head. Not every experience is the same, not every narrative is the same, obviously.

Not every divorce is the same.

I also began to realize that my experience was a slowly growing trend. Friends and acquaintances began approaching me with similar stories once they had heard that I was going through a divorce, looking for support and guidance, someone to say “me too” so they wouldn’t feel so alone. And for some reason nobody was really talking or writing about what was really going on in these divorces, from this point of view or experience.

They felt scared, embarrassed, lost. They felt used and mislead.

Divorce has been around for quite some time, I know. My parents divorced when I was  nine, so it’s not something I had never encountered. But midlife divorce, or what is now coined as “gray divorce”, is a fairly new idea and not one that most people even think about. Once you make it past the twenty, fifteen or even ten year mark you’re solid, right? It’s an easy road from there, you’ve put in the hard work years, sacrificed and raised children together, now it’s smooth sailing and fun until the end of time. Now you’ll travel, take long walks on the beach, grow old together.

Nothing is guaranteed.

So, I began to write. I began to express the voice inside of my own head, my own dialogue, to clear my mind and heart. I also wanted to be a voice for those women in a similar situation, and to let them know that they are not alone. They are not the problem, or a bitch, for feeling this way.

It’s not completely their fault. And it’s okay to have the feelings they are feeling.

I want all of my friends and acquaintances, who are at all of the various points of this process, to know that while it is hard and hurtful, it doesn’t have to destroy you. It can make you stronger, it can make you appreciate who you are and create an entirely new and happy life – now and in the future.

But it will take time.

You can live again, and you will. You can love again, even marry again, but you don’t have to. You just have to find the best version of yourself for yourself, nobody else.

But it will take time.

You have to do what works for you, what fits for you, what makes you feel whole again. Screw the haters, the judges of your life choices, and the stiflers of your voice. Everyone is entitled to their own story and how they choose to tell it, and to whom they choose to tell it to. Privately or publicly, as long as you express the truth, nobody can tell you not to.

But it will all take time. And that amount of time can only be determined by you.

So, I write. It’s part of the process of rebuilding for me, it’s part of the “time” I need. Eventually my plot line will take another turn, new characters and other life events will fill my blog, plus opinions and views that I have on it all…and other people will be upset and judge and hate on it. But that’s okay.

They should write their own story.

Good enough

Something that has come up more than once over the last year or two is the idea of “good enough”. And not just in one area of life, in many. I guess that sometimes we just get tired of trying so hard to be the best, the brightest, the most thoughtful, the most loving…that it’s time to relax and just be good enough. Still get the job done, just not with all of the bells and whistles. And that’s okay. Sometimes.

But, good enough can also transform from more than a moment, or a period, of your life. It can become your life.

Become your career, your parenting style, your relationships, your marriage. Instead of seeking out better or best, or trying to improve it or fix it, it’s so much easier to just float along, letting the waves take us out further, and be good enough.

But is it really enough? And is it even good?

I think I began this habit of accepting good enough pretty early on in my childhood. We weren’t wealthy, or even middle class in the beginning, so we learned to just not ask for, or expect, more than was considered good enough from anything or anyone.

Some people use this childhood experience as a catalyst, or a motivation, to get more of everything that they’ve ever wanted as adults, but were denied as children. They live for their high-powered careers to take them on their amazing destination vacations and to wear the latest designer fashion trends. They collect tokens of success, totems to show the world that they have achieved a higher level. They need to show the world, and their inner child, that good enough was never good enough for them, and now they are in control and now it will be more than enough.

Others of us became trained to not only accept good enough, but to expect it without question or argument, and to live our lives that way. I’m sure most people from my generation – and definitely the ones before – had this hard wired into our brains from the generations before us.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not blaming my parents or grandparents for any type of brainwashing, nor am I whining that I should have been pushed more to stand up for myself or to excel in school to have a super fabulous adult life. I am not making excuses for my poor choices, or lack of voice, that led me to ignore what I truly needed or wanted out of life and my relationships. It’s only an observation of what lead me to this epiphany, the realization that I have been living ‘good enough’ in too many areas of my life.

The entire premise of ‘good enough’ becomes a slippery slope over the course of a lifetime. It starts off with the small things that you accept because really, what does it matter in the end? It’s such a small thing, it’s not going to have much impact in the long run. It may even relieve you of some frustration, or lighten your load of responsibility a little bit, let you off the hook basically. And who doesn’t want that sometimes?

But then, the small things slowly get bigger and bigger over time, and your expectation of what can be excused or shrugged off as “good enough” becomes more elastic, more forgiving. And that idea spreads to those that are close to you, they accept that you accept good enough often, so it must be okay.

And pretty soon, good enough isn’t just a school project or a work report. It’s not getting your meal served luke warm in a restaurant and eating it anyway. It’s no longer just skimming over the small details to save the peace and a little time anymore.

It’s your everyday life. It’s your career, your relationships, even your marriage.

You start off wanting so much from all of these areas in your life, expecting nothing less than greatness. Pure and real, you will work hard at all of it to be successful, determined that you will be more than good enough now because it’s about time.  You’ve accepted good enough long enough. Now you deserve to get what you really want, what you feel you truly deserve, because you’ve read the books and watched the movies that tell you exactly how it should all play out. You are ready to speak up and make demands.

You’ve witnessed all of the wrong ways to go about it, family and friends being the examples to learn from, so naturally you won’t be making those mistakes.

But your expectations for great accomplishments in all of these areas meets up with good enough along the way, because you can’t prepare for what you don’t know or what you haven’t witnessed or experienced before. You can’t guess what will happen, see the future, because you are only one part of the equation. There are so many other people, and events, that bump into your expectations along the way taking you off course – sometimes only a little bit, other times much bigger detours – that the possibilities are endless.

The only choice we really have in the end is to regroup, retrain, and begin again with new knowledge and new expectations. Accepting that we didn’t really know all that we thought we did. We couldn’t have predicted how other factors, people or events, would come into play or how they would affect the plan that we truly believed we had prepared for ourselves.

And everyone’s idea of “good enough” is always a little bit different, so what may seem good enough for you may fall very short for someone else. Or quite possibly it may be more than they hoped to receive. It is the difference of our experiences that can bring us together and separate us all at the same time.

It’s a wild card. A wild card that keeps reappearing throughout our lives.

And with any setback or disappointment there is always a lesson in there, if we are willing to pay attention. If we are willing to accept it and learn from it, accepting that our good enough was obviously not enough, maybe it will keep us from settling for or expecting good enough next time. Hopefully it redirects us to a better path and better choices.

Life isn’t meant to be lived “good enough”. Your job, your friendships, and definitely not your marriage, they deserve more effort. They deserve more of your time, your care, you attention. You deserve it too, whether you’ve been told so or not. And so do the other people in your life.